Impeach Calcutta HC judge: CJI to PM

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New Delhi, Sep 8: K G Balakrishnan, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) has recommended to Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India to impeach a sitting Kolkata High Court Judge Soumitra Sen for 'misconduct'. He misappropriated Rs 22.83 lakh from the receiver's account to his personal account.

This is the second time in the history of Indian Judiciary, the CJI has recommended that a judge be removed from 'service'. Justice Sen, allegedly acted against his position as the receiver of Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) in 1993 and misappropriated the fund. This happened when he was appointed as the receiver in a dispute between SAIL and the Shipping Corporation of India Ltd.

Soumitra Sen was appointed as the High Court judge in 2003. After the allegation proved true Justice Sen was asked to resign from the post of High Court Judge but did not comply and therefore, the Chief Justice has recommended his impeachment. A sitting Supreme Court or High Court judge can be removed from his post only through an impeachment by Parliament.

In 2006 a three-judge committee of the High Court had inquired into the matter and found Justice Sen guilty and recommended to the government for his withdrawal from the post of High Court Judge. The recommendation has already being sent to the Law Ministry. H R Bhardwaj, the Union Law Minister confirmed to the media that he has received the recommendation of the CJI and has forwarded it.

A resolution for his impeachment is to be passed by joint sitting of both the houses of Parliament. Then he will be removed by the President, who is the appointing authority for Supreme Court or High Court judges.

On August 4, 2008 the Chief Justice of India had written a letter to the Prime Minister recommending impeachment proceedings against Justice Sen under Article 217 (1) read with Article 124(4) of the Constitution.

According to the letter, the High Court by its order dated April 30, 1984 appointed him as the receiver to make an inventory of certain goods for SAIL and he was directed to deduct five per cent of the sale price towards his remuneration and keep the balance in a separate bank account and hold the same free from lien or encumbrances subject to further orders of the court.

The High Court had directed a payment of Rs 70 lakh to the workers of Kolkata Fans, a company in liquidation and Justice Sen, who was a practising advocate at that time was appointed as a receiver to disperse Rs 70 lakh to the workers.

He deposited Rs 25 lakh from the Special Officers Account with a company M/S Lynx India ltd, which later went into liquidation. Justice Sen later returned the money under judicial orders.

Judges (Inquiry) Act 1968:

The Judges (Inquiry) Act, 1968 stipulates that a motion for removal of a judge involving allegations of misbehaviour or incapacity may be admitted if notice is given by at least 100 members of Lok Sabha or 50 members of Rajya Sabha, then it can be referred to a committee for investigation.

Supreme Court Justice V Ramaswami was the first judge to be impeached under this act in 1991 for misconduct in furniture purchases when he was the Chief Justice of Haryana HC. An inquiry committee ruled against him and Lok Sabha MP Madhu Dandavate moved a motion to the President for removal of the judge under Act 124 (4) of the Constitution read with Section 3 of the Judges (Inquiry) Act. It had signatures of more than 100 MPs, was submitted to the Speaker of the House who admitted the motion. A vote was called but the ruling party, the Congress, abstained.

The only judge to be removed in independent India is Justice Shiva Prasad of Allahabad HC by then Governor General of India C Rajagopalachari on April 22, 1949 accepting a report of the Federal Court.

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